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Saturday, 11 May, 2002, 15:22 GMT 16:22 UK
Stadium jinx finally ends
Stoke City celebrating in the Millennium Stadium's south dressing room
Stoke players celebrate in their dressing room
The curse of the south changing room at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium has finally been broken, following Stoke City's win in the Division Two play-off final .

As well as gaining promotion to the First Division, the team managed to do what a string of othes failed to do - win while using the changing room.

Andrew Vicari painting mural on Millennium Stadium wall
Andrew Vicari was called in to paint a mural

Management at the stadium had denied there was any kind of hoodoo despite bringing in a feng shui expert to carry out a blessing and employing Welsh artist Andrew Vicari was brought in to paint a mural to try to defeat the "bad spirits".

Stoke manager Gudjon Thordarson was determined to use the so-called curse to his advantage.

The last 12 major cup and play-off finals have been won by the team using the north end of the ground, but the Icelandic boss was undaunted.

Before the match he said: "I'm very confident that that will be broken.

"Some of the players might be worried, but I'm going to turn it into my favour and our favour, so we take our players down there and change the spirit inside the dressing room."

Last week, multi-millionaire Andrew Vicari painted a red mural for free on the wall of the "room of doom" after stadium chiefs took the advice of a feng shui expert.

Artist Andrew Vicari

Vicari, 63, took just an hour to cover the white wall of the unlucky room - with fiery images of the sun, a galloping horse and a legendary phoenix bird rising from the ashes.

The wealthy artist - who lives in Picasso's house in the south of France - believed the mystical painting could help break the hoodoo.

He was at the stadium to see Stoke win and said afterwards: "They were the better team but I think I can claim some credit for banishing this losing streak once and for all.

I've never painted on breeze block before but it was well worth it to lift the curse that has blighted this beautiful stadium."

Until Stoke's triumph, it has seemed nothing would overcome the "hoodoo".

Last weekend, Chelsea, despite wearing their "lucky" white socks failed to beat the jinx, losing in the FA Cup final to Arsenal.

Then Rushden and Diamonds lost in the Division Three play-off final last Sunday.

They joined an illustrious list of losers including Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and Birmingham City. over the last 18 months since the stadium took over from Wembley as the premier footballing venue in the UK.

Stadium officials have been keen to play down the talk of a jinx ahead of the crucial play-off finals.

Negative energy

In March Nottingham-based Paul Darby carried out a feng shui blessing, involving bells, incense sticks and sea salt, in a bid to counter-balance the "bad spirits" in one end of the giant stadium ahead of the LDV Vans Trophy final.

He even walked a horse around the grounds to try to rid the stadium of the "negative energy" he encountered.

But it was to no avail as underdogs Cambridge promptly lost 4-1 to Blackpool after using the unlucky end.

Glanmor Griffiths, chairman of the Millennium Stadium, said he was "delighted" that the run had finally come to an end.

"It was nothing more than a strange sequence of results.

It was like tossing a coin - it hand to end some time," said Mr Griffiths.

It now remains to be seen whether Birmingham, who play Norwich City in the Division One play-off for promotion to the Premiership on Sunday, can continue Stoke's winning streak.

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